The Leaderboard: Wu Shengli

The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific.
Who is he?

Wu Shengli is the commander-in-chief of China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy. He has been with the navy since 1964 and was promoted to commander-in-chief in 2006. Wu is the most influential thinker on naval strategy in China since Liu Huaqing, who is widely referred to as the father of China’s modern navy. Admiral Wu served as the commander of the China South Sea Fleet from 2002-2004 and has been a member of the Central Military Commission, China’s supreme military policy-making body, since 2007.

Admiral Wu Shengli (left). Source: U.S. Pacific Fleet's flickr photostream, U.S. Government Work.

Admiral Wu Shengli (left) on arrival in San Diego during September 9, 2013. Source: U.S. Pacific Fleet’s flickr photostream, U.S. Government Work.

Why is he in the news?

Admiral Wu is conducting high-level talks in the United States in a concerted effort to boost military-to-military cooperation. He was in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii from September 6-8 accompanied by three Chinese ships, and on September 9, he toured the Third Fleet headquarters in San Diego with U.S. Navy Chief of Operations, Admiral Jonathan Greenert. The two discussed how the United States and China can work together to prevent regional conflict and continued bilateral talks as they traveled to Washington, DC.

What can we expect? 

In September 2012, former Chinese defense minister Liang Guanglie and former United States secretary of defense Leon Panetta announced an effort to increase military-to-military ties as part of their “new type of relations,” and Admiral Wu will certainly play a large role in this endeavor. After a meeting with Admiral Cecil Haney in May 2013, Wu expressed his optimism that the two navies could familiarize themselves with each other and collaborate on many efforts such as establishing command and control rules over the Asia-Pacific region and counter-piracy operations in the Gulf of Aden, thus enhancing mutual trust and friendship. Concrete plans to further cooperation are already underway: Admiral Wu accepted the U.S. invitation to participate in its first Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) exercises, the world’s largest maritime warfare exercise, in 2014.

The Admiral’s visit demonstrates a warming of relations, but Wu has also not been shy about his desire to develop China’s blue water navy. This could be seen as a direct attempt to balance against the U.S. Navy, especially given rising tensions in the South and East China Seas.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *